SIELE EXAM TIPS AND PREPARATION GUIDE
SIELE (acronym for Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española) is the International Evaluation Service for the Spanish Language which evaluates and certifies the level of language proficiency of students and professionals in seven continents, with the use of technology. This certification is achieved through four exams in five modalities, which places the candidate in a competency level between A1 and C1, presenting tasks that increase in level of difficulty. The levels established by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) are used as a reference.
The candidate can choose the evaluation modality:
- SIELE GLOBAL (all tests)
- Four independent tests:
All tests include a minimum of three varieties of Spanish, however in the first three tasks, in levels A1 – B1, the varieties are as neutral as possible, and dialect or exclusive features of one variety of the language are avoided.
- Reading comprehension + listening comprehension
- Reading comprehension + writing expression and interaction
- Listening comprehension + oral expression and interaction
- Oral expression and interaction
Before taking the SIELE, candidates are advised to familiarize themselves with the instructions, learn the technical aspect of the test and do trials considering the duration of the test and practice what each task requires.
- TEST 1: READING COMPREHENSION
In this test, the student must be able to understand the general concept, so they can later focus on the specific information. Likewise, they must be able to grasp implications and identify structures, vocabulary and cohesion mechanisms in texts that are linguistically complex.
For the candidate to be successful in this test, we recommend they take into account the following advice:
- During the exam
- The candidate should leave a few extra minutes to review their answers.
- The items follow the order of information in the texts, which makes it easy to find the information needed.
- The distractors are linked to some ideas that appear in the text, but it is necessary to find an alternative that expresses the same concept, but in other words.
- Tricks and advice to resolve the test
- Look at the clock and control time.
- Review the grammar structures studied.
- Read the title to have an idea of the topic.
- Read statements and understand them so you can find key words that will help choose your answer. Sometimes the answer will have a synonym or other expressions that have the same meaning.
- Do a general reading of the text, underlining the main ideas, after reading the questions.
- Read the text all the way through in order to have a complete idea and relate ideas with statements and answers.
- Do not look for word coincidences and don’t rely on the information that appears literally in the text, since it may be a trap.
- Understand the meaning of new words through context clues.
- Pay attention to gender and number, and to prepositions that go with verbs.
- Read something of your interest every day, and write down the new vocabulary in a notebook. Use this vocabulary every chance you get.
- To practice all these aspects, it is convenient to count on a professional for guidance and supervision for better direction.
- TEST 2: LISTENING COMPREHENSION
In this test, the student should be able to grasp the sense of what is being said, gather specific information, understand in detail and extract information from the audios, speeches and news.
The audios that we find in this type of exams go from everyday conversations to conferences and speeches.
- The conversations between two speakers are about common or everyday topics and last no more than two minutes.
- Five medium sized news clips or radio broadcasts are presented, their structure is simple and talk about every day or predictable aspects. They last no more than three minutes.
- We will find eight informal speeches or conversations, where anecdotes or personal experiences are shared about one specific topic. The duration is no more than five minutes.
- A radio or televised interview is featured, where there is a presentation, description or discussion. The duration is no more than five minutes.
- We will find long conferences, speeches, presentations and/or radio or televised news broadcasts, in which projects and/or experiences are narrated. The duration is no more than minutes.
2.1 Audios in each task
- Task 1
Audios are about everyday topics: transport, leisure activities, shops, food and beverage, restaurants, common professions, family life and friendship.
- Task 2
Texts are normally about store or tour agency offers, leisure activities, contests, courses, lodging rentals, tourism activities. Questions are based on the main idea (what is being said, for example) or specific details (who, where, how or when of the information in the audio). It is recommendable candidates practice both types of comprehension prior to the exam. Structures in both past and present can be found.
- Task 3
The brief monologues in this task narrate experiences from the past, in relation to one main topic. The use of the past is common and simple conjunctions (but, because, though, etc.) are found. Since a lot of information is provided, pronouns of all sorts are common.
- Task 4
An interview is presented, where the candidate must respond to eight questions (B2 level). The level of the language is relatively complex, and can be of any general topic usually about professional or business experiences.
It is advisable that candidates practice with all sorts of texts, so they can resolve the task successfully and quickly.
- Task 5
It is a speech divided in six fragments and one idea out of three must be picked from the fragments. For this task, candidates must be proficient in grammar structures in B2 and C1 levels.
- Task 6
It is a long monologue where six ideas are expressed and they must be identified in the text, from twelve options provided. For this task, candidates must be proficient in grammar structures in the C1 level.
- During the exam
- Read carefully all main instructions in order to know what must be done in each task.
- Listen to the audios for all tasks twice and do not interrupt any of them.
- Consider that after 30 seconds of replaying the audio, the system will automatically jump to the next task, so you should make sure to have answered the questions before then.
- Complete all tasks because errors do not subtract points.
- If there are difficulties with the completion of a task and decide not to complete it, you can move on to the next task.
- The listening test does not end until the candidate has gone through all the tasks and the maximum amount of time to complete the final task is over.
- Items follow the order of information in the text.
- Consider distractors are related to the text.
- Tricks to solve the test
- Practice with a set time per task.
- Read all alternatives before the audio is first played.
- Solve items when the corresponding part of the audio is played, otherwise you will lose time and you could miss out on answering some items.
- Each task has a limited execution time to carefully read the instructions, listen to the audios twice and answer the questions.
- Take into consideration that ideas that must be identified are those that summarize the paragraph; but there could be supporting details within the passage.
- Concentrate and get the gist of the text. Try not to translate word for word.
- Learn 10 new words each day and if possible, have a notebook.
- Watch films in Spanish that you have already seen before. You could also start watching series in Spanish. Try to watch one episode every day.
- Listen to music in Spanish. You could start with romantic music and download the lyrics.
- Read aloud. Not only is it convenient to listen to other people’s voices, it is also useful to listen to your own voice and your pronunciation. That is why it is recommendable to read magazines and books in Spanish aloud and record yourself to catch mistakes and correct them.
- Participate in dictation. If you have friends who speak Spanish, play with dictations; and write down what speakers say.
- Take live or online classes with native teachers.
- To practice all aspects it is recommended that SIELE candidates execute different interactive activities as a way of practicing under the supervision of a teacher that can guide them.
- TEST 3: WRITING AND INTERACTIVE EXPRESSION
This test assesses the candidate’s ability to communicate in written form, and is comprised of two tasks. First, there is an interaction task, in which the candidate must read a text (letter, email, forum or blog post) and provide an answer. Second, they must choose an expression or interaction task, in which the candidate must write a text about a specific topic from the information they are given. It is important to mention that the candidate has 50 minutes to complete both tasks and may move from one to the other.
In regards to the required level, the first task can be done adequately with a language level of B1, partially with an A2 level and minimally with an A1 level. The second task requires at least a B2 level; however, a candidate with a B1 level could resolve tasks, but with some limitations. Remember that any variety of Spanish can be used, since all are valued equally.
- Task Characteristics
- Task 1
During the first task, the candidate must meet five criteria: greet, and in occasions respond to a question presented by another person. In the second point, they must provide information (A1). In the third, they must describe a place, an occurrence or express their preferences (A2). In the fourth, generally, they must narrate an anecdote or experience. It is recommended that candidates use past and future tenses, as well as the subjunctive present and past, the conditional, indirect speech, etc. The last point in the closing.
It is recommended that the answer be between 100 and 150 words long, in order to respond to all the points indicated in the instructions. The amount of words is not considered for scoring purposes, scores are based on the correct execution of the task and the level of the language used.
- Task 2
In this task, the candidate must choose between two options. If they cannot decide in one minute, the system will automatically pick for them and they will not be able to change. However, if during the execution of Task 2 the candidate goes back to Task 1 to review it or finish it, when they return to the second task, the system with automatically take them to the option chosen previously.
In the first option, the candidate is asked to write an opinion piece about an abstract topic, where they must meet the following points: present the topic, express an opinion on it, present arguments that support their opinion and reach a conclusion. In the second option, the candidate must write a letter to a newspaper where they will complain or express an opinion about a determined incidence, presenting the problem that it faces, propose alternative solutions and/or indicate the response they expect.
- During the exam
- It is important that the candidate maintain the structure expressed in the instructions, scoring is based on the accuracy with which they answer all items and sub items. That is why it is recommended task instructions are followed.
- The candidate must keep within the topic, but may offer details, examples and even include personal information in their response, but it is important to focus on the task topic, adapt to the text genre and not move away from the situation presented.
- It is important to estimate the extension of the text and perhaps, before the exam, have an idea of what it means to write 100 – 150 words (task 1) and 200 – 350 words (task 2).
- Tricks or advice to solve the test
- A cohesive text must be created and to achieve that, connectors must be used: and, but, because, that is why, also, so, then, additionally, though, however, nevertheless, therefore, not only… but also… in Spanish: y, pero, porque, por eso, también, entonces, así que, además, aunque, sin embargo, a pesar de, por lo tanto, no solo… sino también…; and information organizers first, later, after, to begin, finally, on the other hand, about… in Spanish: primero, luego, después, para empezar, finalmente, por otra parte, en cuanto a.
- Spelling and the use of punctuation must be done carefully.
- Special attention must be given to the grammar used and adapt it to the task instructions. It is recommendable that the candidate includes the uses of the forms of the verb to be (ser, estar, haber), irregular verb conjugation, use of the past tense, future tense, and be aware of the subject – verb consistency.
- In the practice lessons before the exam frequently used vocabulary can be practiced, for both personal and public scenarios.
- It is recommended to keep within the indicated word range: 100 – 150 words for the first task and 200 – 350 for the second.
- It is best to have a few extra minutes to review the task and make sure the instructions have been followed, and that the text is cohesive, correct and has reach.
- For better results, practice under the supervision of a teacher is recommended.
- TEST 4: ORAL EXPRESSION AND INTERACTION
In this test, the candidate’s ability to communicate orally is assessed. The candidate must record their responses in a voice file that will later be scored by an accredited evaluator.
The OEI test includes five tasks, which go from level A1 to C1 of the CFER: two interaction tasks (tasks 1 and 4), where the candidate must listen to questions and provide a response; and three expression tasks, where the candidate will create an oral text from a guideline and a visual stimulus (task 2) or written stimulus (tasks 3 and 5).
The candidate must consider that this test is between 15 and 20 minutes long, and that each task has a time limit for each response to be recorded; as well as a limited time to prepare the response. These responses may be provided in any variety of Spanish, since they will all be scored equally.
About the level of questions and texts, the first three tasks correspond to levels A1 – B1 and are adapted to international Spanish. When the task is executed, the instructions must be followed, and focus kept on the topic, because what is evaluated is the use of the language to achieve the task.
- Task Characteristics
- Task 1
This is the oral interaction task and consists of four personal questions, where the candidate must provide information about themselves, their life experience and close circle. The first two tasks, correspond to level A1 and the last two correspond to level A2.
- Task 2
This is the oral expression task and consists of a brief presentation from a photograph of a situation and from a set of instructions that indicate the aspects that must be described.
The candidate can choose between two photographs that reflect personal or public situations and corresponds to the CFER A2 level.
- Task 3
This is an oral expression task, and in it, the candidate will participate as if they were in an interaction situation, but they don’t have to listen to an audio. The candidate is given two imaginary situations in writing, so they can request and provide information about immediate needs, through transactions or social contacts. The first situation is personal, the second is public, and in each one, the candidate has two options to choose from. They are given maximum 1 and a half minute to complete the task.
- Task 4
This is an oral interaction task, and in it the candidate must answer three questions. The candidate chooses a topic and two options. Next, they must read a text between 80 and 120 words related to the chosen topic; and listen to and answer the three questions available in independent audio files. In their response, the candidate must express their opinion, provide information and hypothesize on the chosen topic that may be about public, education or professional life. The task belongs to a CFER B2 level.
- Task 5
This is an oral expression task and in it the candidate must choose one of two statements presented, both related to the topic chosen in Task 4, about public, education or professional life. Next, they have 2 minutes to prepare a speech, where they must speak in favor of or against the statement during 4 minutes, at most. Task 5 belongs to a CFER C1 level.
- Tricks or advice to solve the test
- Responses should not be single-word, avoiding answering saying “yes” or “no”.
- Learned structures should be used; for example, past, future, conditional, subjunctive and others.
- Many of the questions give clues of the grammar structures that could be used or that the evaluator expects the candidate to use.
Question: What aspect of your life would you change if you could?
¿Qué aspecto de su vida cambiaría si pudiera?
Candidate: If I could, I believe I would study a different profession because…
Si pudiera, creo que estudiaría otra profesión porque…
- Remember that for questions 1 and 2 you only have 15 seconds to record each answer, and for questions 3 and 4, you only have 30 seconds.
- Utilize the texts provided in some tasks as support, to avoid going off topic and have to improvise everything.
- Use connectors and reference elements (demonstratives, adverbs, pronouns, etc.)
- Be fluent and have good pronunciation. Avoid long silences.
- Responses must contain a varied vocabulary.
- When a candidate forgets or does not know a word, it is best to explain it with familiar vocabulary.
- Memorize some expressions to give an opinion, suggestions, comparisons, express preferences, etc.
- Practice with images of a variety of situations and audios that discuss different topics.
- To obtain better results, it is recommended to practice under the supervision and evaluation of a teacher.
- Official guide for Dele preparation.